Ain’t “nuttin'” but a PB thang, baby!

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Soooo, it looks like we missed National Peanut Butter Day by quite a while, which was on January 24th this year. November, however, is National Peanut Month, so maybe I’m early! Yes, that’s it. I’m early. Did you know that it takes 550 peanuts to make a 12 ounce jar of peanut butter? That fact makes each of those spoon-fulls that pass my lips seem a little bit more precious!

We eat a TON of peanut butter in my house (and elsewhere). I am very thankful that we have no aversions to it. It seems that we would be lost without it. We eat it at least once a day – on toast, on sandwiches, in desserts, with apples, with carrots, on a spoon, on fingers….

In preparation for an upcoming playdate, I made peanut butter cookies (and cupcakes, but we’ll save those for another day). I adore how “old fashioned” they look, with the fork marks on them. This particular version is both gluten and dairy free. I’ve made them before with this recipe and they always come out beautifully.

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They are soft, but with a little chew to them, just as they should be. They are rich with peanut butter flavor. They’d be delicious if you used crunchy peanut butter (I only had creamy). You could also add chocolate chips. Or you could keep them just as they are…perfect, soft, yet crumbly, reminiscent of a bakery peanut butter cookie.

Make them. You won’t be disappointed!

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/gluten-free-peanut-butter-cookies

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Blessings,

Kristin

 

It’s Snack Time!

It’s almost snack time around here.

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My boys live for snack time. They act like I didn’t feed them a well-rounded breakfast, small snack and lunch just before. Do you ever run into the old what-do-I-feed-“them” routine? Sometimes, I’ll serve them fruit. Other times, they have store-bought granola bars (sometimes I make them from scratch, but other times, ain’t nobody got time for that), raisins, yogurt, or applesauce. And, sometimes, I will make a snack with them that will sort of go with one of the library books we’ve checked out. It’s fun to tie together snacks and books.

Welll, today, this didn’t happen. But I already know what I’ll be feeding the boys for snack. I made no-bake Cheerios bars for them, earlier in the week.

They came out so pretty!

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It was a wickedly easy recipe, and for once (or twice, but that’s it, tops), I had all the ingredients, even the chocolate covered sunflower seeds!

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Give them a try!

http://www.averiecooks.com/2013/10/no-bake-honey-nut-cheerios-snack-bars.html

I used a mix of half corn syrup and half honey. As the recipe states, they do fall apart a little bit, but they boys didn’t mind. And they taste great. I also used raisins and sunflower seeds. This recipe could be easily adapted to whatever you have to throw in. I did leave them in the fridge to set up for a few hours, so maybe plan to make these earlier in the day, if you want them by nap time. 🙂

Enjoy!

Happy 2nd Birthday, Smalls!

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Today is my Smalls’ 2nd birthday. He has brought me so much joy in his little life. I am crazy about him. This kid has spunk. He’s fearless about so many things, and I secretly love that about him. Even though it can be scary, as a parent, for my child to go into things without thinking, it’s neat to see the joy that fearlessness brings him. On the flip-side, he’s very complex – he gets overwhelmed very easily in certain situations. He gets upset at things that are too sensory-oriented (he’s got some proprioceptive things going on). But…I LOVE that we have this understanding, me and him. I know when he’s got his issues, and he comes to me to make them go away. He trusts my hugs to make him feel better. I love his silly, fun-loving sense of humor, the way he loves to make people laugh, but also gets shy when directly addressed by others. I love his wild antics, his mischievous smile, the naughty twinkle in his eye, partially hidden by his dark, long lashes. I love his teeny, little button nose. I love his lanky, long, skinny stick legs that envelope me in a hug, like a little koala bear. I love his hands, they are still like little baby hands. I love his bouncy, golden curls that frame his face, and flounce all over the place, especially because he’s almost always running and jumping, everywhere he goes. He’s simply the best. And I’m so blessed and eternally grateful to be his Mommy. What a gift from God.

We had a little party for him over the weekend with both sets of his Grandparents. I went with a beachy, tropical theme. It was a little tacky. I love tacky. And it was kind of a nod to his first birthday party, last year, where I did an under-the-sea theme.

I cooked and baked allllll day.

I made a Pineapple Cilantro Pulled Pork in the crock pot. It was an easy(ish) recipe because the crock pot did most of the work. I simply seasoned the pork butt and made a BBQ sauce.

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It was delicious and FULL of flavor.

http://www.fivehearthome.com/2014/07/14/slow-cooker-pineapple-pulled-pork-with-pineapple-barbecue-sauce/

I also made a Porky Pineapple Fried Rice.

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It was also very good.

http://damndelicious.net/2014/06/25/pineapple-fried-rice/

I made green beans, too! I boiled fresh green beans, put them in an ice bath, and then sauteed them with a little bit of olive oil and garlic. Delicious.

I also made crescent roll octopi. They more came out like jellyfish. I don’t know how on earth I was supposed to get EIGHT legs out of them. But they came out so cute. The boys kept asking for “legs”.

It wasn’t weird at all.

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They were a hit. Just cut 7 (or however many you can, then call them “jellyfish”) strips on the short side of the crescent and then roll the top down to form the head. Use (or not) black olives for the eyeballs.

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Dinner was delicious.

But dessert…oh boy, dessert was where it was at.

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I have to say, and not to pat myself on the back, but it was my best ever work. It was DIVINE.

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I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe, but I used Hershey’s dark cocoa in place of the regular cocoa (both turn out delicious). Because of that change, this cake was black and fudgey with a deep, complex cocoa flavor. It was insanely good.

https://www.hersheys.com/recipes/recipe-details.aspx?id=184&name=HERSHEY%27S-PERFECTLY-CHOCOLATE-Chocolate-Cake

I paired it with a white buttercream.

The buttercream was silky smooth. I just added blue coloring (Americolor Sky Blue). I used my offset spatula to make waves with the blue frosting.

http://www.confessionsofacookbookqueen.com/2013/06/double-chocolate-cupcakes-and-crispy-magic-frosting/

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I left some of the buttercream white and used that as the shore, and added graham cracker crumbs for sand.

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I decorated it with palm trees and a surfboard (all from Smalls’ first ever birthday cake last year), flamingos, fish and dolphin sprinkles, and gummy turtles (Smalls loves turtles).

It was so, so, so good.

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The combination was heavenly. And not because of what I did, but because of the recipes. So good. I can’t even stop thinking or talking about it. My mouth is watering for it now.

It was a great celebration. And today is family day – we will be showering Smalls with lots of love, fun times, and good food.

Happiest Birthday, my sweet, spicy nugget. May you always feel as loved as you are. ❤

Blessings to you all,

Kristin

Sugar Sugar! Aww, Honey Honey!

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You guys know that I have an insatiable sweet tooth.

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It’s the reason I run (well, that and teaching my kids to take care of their bodies, setting a good example, living longer, blah blah blah). I’ve had this sweet tooth since before I can even remember. When I’d earn my allowance as a kid, I wouldn’t spend it on dolls or shoes (oh wait, yes I DID spend it on shoes…okay, so shoes AND a sweet tooth, I’m a real keeper), instead I’d have my Mom take me to the mall candy shop (The Sweet Factory, remember that place?!) and buy a little bag. I’d fill it with candy peas & carrots, sugar-coated ribbons, gummy peach rings, jelly beans, licorice, and jawbreakers. Those are such fun memories for me. As an adult, my tastes have matured a bit – I’m into classier sweets now, like Ho-Hos, Ding-Dongs, Snowballs, Twinkies etc. You know.

I love that dessert comes in so many forms.

Sometimes, the fruit produce is so good and sweet, you don’t even need (wow, that’s painful to say) dessert, of the baked or sugary variety.

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And other times, you come across a great find at Aldi and don’t have to make your dessert yourself.

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How NEAT that I found this at Aldi, of all places!

But other times, you make it yourself. And you enjoy making it and then eating it.

It’s a sort of therapy for me.

And I love baking for others. It’s my love language. Seriously. Don’t laugh.

We got together a few weekends ago with our wonderful neighbors for a dinner party. For my GF husband, I made…wait for it…kidney bean brownies! Don’t scrunch up your face like that! They were delicious. My original intent was to make black bean brownies, but I only had kidney beans. So typical of me. But, then I came across a recipe that would work for me.

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And wouldn’t you know, they came out delicious!

Here is the recipe:

http://eat2run.com/recipes/kidney-bean-brownies-w-gf-option/

They were moist and chocolately. We used the GF option (obvi).

For the rest of us carb-lovers, I tried a new Willow Bird Baking recipe. I’d been eying it ever since seeing Julie post pictures of the recipe in development.

Sure, mine didn’t come out as pretty as hers, but they were SO. GOOD. So simple, but so good.

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Gorgeous, tender, buttery shortbread topped with creamy, rich, dark chocolate frosting. Seriously. Make it. You probably have all the ingredients. I did, for once. HA!

http://willowbirdbaking.com/2014/07/10/shortbreads-with-dark-chocolate-frosting/

And a couple weeks ago, my sweet friend had a little, teeny, beautiful baby girl. So I made her mini donuts.

It’s what I would want.

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I used this recipe just recently and have used it many times in the past. It’s easy, but time consuming…and oh-so-worth it.

http://www.confessionsofacookbookqueen.com/2012/04/mini-devils-food-donuts/

I think you could probably swap out the mix for any flavor – Red Velvet mini donuts? Spice mini donuts? I suppose the choices are endless.

And to round out my very sweet couple of weeks, we had a church community party potluck on Friday night. I wouldn’t have felt right subjecting those people to my cooking. So I baked.

I ran across a recipe on Instagram, by the Doughmestic Housewife, for Graham Cracker S’more Cups. I was sold – I both LOVE s’mores and HAD all the ingredients!

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It was a quick recipe, so I made it about a half hour before we needed to go. Of course, they didn’t turn out exactly right because of something I must have done, but my mini cupcake papers sort of saved them (the graham layer was VERY crumbly).

Graham Cracker S’More Cups – Doughmestic Housewife

1 1/2 C graham cracker crumbs

1/3 C sugar

6 T butter, softened

Mix crust ingredients and press into greased mini muffin pan. Press firmly to form a cup shape. Cook at 375 for 6 minutes. Add mini marshmallows (I only had big) and milk chocolate pieces and cook a bit longer until toppings start to melt. Remove from oven and let cups cook to warm.

Even though they sort of messed up, the flavors were amazing.

Here’s to a  sweet week!

Blessings,

Kristin

Fun Kid Food Dinner

For one dinner last week, I did something fun for me the kids.

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I love using my compartmentalized trays. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while or know me in “real” life, you know much I love cafeterias. I know how weird it is. Anyways. I found some chicken tenders at Trader Joe’s. They were individually frozen (although packaged together) and it was really helpful, when pulling them out one by one. I was able to get two meals out of the package (with leftovers each time) and it was only a little over $6. The tenders were void of any fat, which was such a time saver for me, and they were all about the same size. I made a gluten-free breading of crushed cornflakes, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. I dredged them in the breading after their egg bath, and baked for only a few minutes. Easy peasy! I served them with creamy, homemade mashed potatoes (using almond milk and soy butter), seasoned corn, and a delicious fruit salad. I’ve made variations on this meal before and I now know it’s my family’s favorite. They clean their plates and ask for more. It’s so nice to feed them something homemade and healthy and have them love it.

Review Result: I will definitely be getting these tenders again and again from TJ’s!

I hope you make it and enjoy!

Kristin

Hey Mambo, Mambo Italiano! (And a TJ’s Review)

My sweet cousin is in Italy right now. Her pictures look amazing. The food, the landscape, the weather. It all looks incredible. I am, quite sadly, not in Italy right now. But I did try a few frozen Trader Joe’s Italian meals and I’m up for reviewing!

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I tried the Perline Pasta & Proscuitto. They were like little purses. They were ready in minutes and were quite delicious. I couldn’t help but taste them without the sauce. The pasta was firm and held together well. The inside tasted like it had cheese in it, as well as proscuitto. They were delicious. I paired them with TJ’s Party Size Mini Meatballs. Those were also very easy to make. I actually did them in the microwave. They were chewy, but in a good way. They were savory and had a good seasoning to them.

Review Result: Both delicious, great for quick meals.

The second I tried (third, technically, I suppose) was another carb-filled package.

Sue me.

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The Polenta Provencale with Spinach & Peas in a Spicy Cream Sauce. It was frozen, including the sauce. I warmed it up in the microwave and the sauce melted off of the frozen polenta balls, coating all the other yummy bits in the bowl. I had a fleeting thought that it wouldn’t be so good, but after my first bite, I was convinced for the good. The polenta was chewy, yet tender. The spinach, as well as the peas, held their green color and didn’t turn mushy. The sauce was delicious, although not spicy. It was creamy and tangy.

Review Result: Yes! Also a great purchase for a quick meal.

I know pre-packaged, frozen meals aren’t the best for you, but hey, neither is going to Olive Garden and eating eighteen bowls of salad and eleventy six breadsticks.

Not that I’ve done that.

That you know of.

Or that I’ll tell you of.

I am excited to see what else TJ’s has in store (get it?) for me to try!

Kristin

Banana-Rama

Knock Knock.

Who’s there?

Orange.

Orange who?

Orange you glad I didn’t say “bananas”?

I just taught this joke to my four year old. He is super into jokes right now. It’s really cute. He never waits for you to say “Who’s there?” and he always changes something with the telling of the joke or the punchline. It’s great.

We’ve been making banana “ice cream” a lot lately. Like, more than we should. It’s just so good. I know I’ve posted about it on this blog before. It’s just too easy. And refreshing. And it’s SO freaking hot outside.

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It’s just bananas, peeled, chopped and frozen and then mixed in the food processor. I’ve been adding dark chocolate cocoa and peanut butter. It tastes like a Reece’s PB Cup, but with a banana.

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The kids think it’s an extra special treat, and it really is, even though it is entirely healthy and (naturally) sweet.

Do it.

Kristin

A Sweet(ish) TJ’s Review

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I have never been “accused” of being “vanilla” in my life, for either style or personality. But, even if I were, I would not be offended. How can you take “vanilla” as a cut-down? It’s beautiful, fragrant, tropical, floral, and so sweet (unless you try the extract…don’t do that…or let a friend try it, it’ll make a good prank!). Its speckled beauty perfumes frostings, adding both flavor and a delicious richness. Vanilla is very appealing to me.

So, when I saw these Trader Joe’s Vanilla Bean Mini Cupcakes on the shelf, amongst the Lemon Zinger Cake, Flourless Chocolate Cake, and GF Chocolate Cupcakes (sorry, Husband, I had to do research), I was immediately drawn to them. You could see the specks of vanilla in the creamy frosting. I chose these over chocolate (that sounds like a confession and it might as well be).

They came home with me. I felt like a proud, new Mama.  I was very excited. I put them in the fridge at home because it was a very hot day outside and I didn’t want any melty frosting. There is a time and a place for melty frosting. This was not it.

I digress. Frosting-talk easily makes me digress.

Don’t judge.

Anyways, I have to say I was very disappointed in these. Both the cake and frosting were hard, as if the cupcakes had been sitting on the shelf for way too long (and not in that Ho-Ho, Ding-Dong, Zingers, Twinkies sort of a way, because I can handle that shelf-life). I even kept them out on my counter and defrosted completely to try round 2. They were still too hard. The cake itself was crunchy in some places and looked a little too over baked. The frosting never got soft. I could tell that there was a good vanilla flavor in both the cake and frosting, but the hardened texture of both overshadowed any deliciousness.

Sorry TJ’s. These were not so good. But don’t worry, when it comes to cakes, cookies, and the like, I have a tenacious spirit. I’ll give your baked goods a second (third, fourth, fifth…) chance. I really want to like them.

Review Result: These were meh, but perhaps I got a “bad batch”? Stay tuned for future baked goods reviews.

In the meantime, if you want to make your own vanilla cake, see this blog post. In it is a recipe I used for an almond-y vanilla cake. So good. Try it.

https://sprinklesinmylunchbox.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/happy-100-blog-posts/

Hope you’re day is as sweet as these cupcakes, but not as crunchy. Because that wouldn’t be good. Unless the crunchy parts were bit that were supposed to be there, like hazelnuts or toffee. Because then that would be like an extra bonus.

Yummy crunchy bits also easily make me digress.

Kristin

Honey Sesame Tofu & a TJ’s Review

Oh, boy! A Trader Joe’s opened up near me! Yippee! I know that many people are used to having this store, but it’s a big deal in our town. We’ve waited patiently for it to be built, and then we waited patiently for the crowds to die down. We finally braved it last weekend, early in the morning. The trucks had just been unloaded (I think) and most of the shelves stocked. The boys found Parker the Peacock (the store’s stuffed animal), a first for this location, or so we were told by a worker. They got a prize, we got fun groceries (some of which include wine [obvi], gnocchi, meatballs, chicken tenders, “green” juice”, cupcakes [I had to!], ginger cookies [their number one selling item!], frozen fruit, and GF waffles for Hubs). It was a good time. I decided to do a review on some of the items we bought.

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Today, I am reviewing the Trader Joe’s Organic Sprouted Tofu.

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A good reviewer would have written down the price…or saved the receipt. I did neither. But I do remember that this twin-pack was the cheapest of all the tofu selections there. I like that you get two smaller blocks of tofu. Sometimes I don’t want to eat a whole brick.

They were packed in their “tofu juice”, as usual. I covered my block with a paper towel and let it drain. Then I cut it into cubes. The inside of the block crumbled a bit, despite being “extra firm”, but the crumbles were big enough to count as a “piece”.

I decided to make a honey and sesame version. My recipe is below. It came out delicious. My youngest, Smalls, ate almost half of the serving. He couldn’t get enough of the “to-few”.

Review Result: Recommended

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Honey Sesame Tofu

Serves: 2

1 brick of tofu (as you know, the TJ’s one was smaller)

1 T sesame oil

1 t vegetable oil

1 – 2 T sesame seeds

1.5 t soy sauce

1.5 t honey

1/2 t brown sugar

Place the sesame seeds in a small pan and heat on medium until brown, swirling in pan (so they don’t burn). You can skip this step, but you’ll be sorry. Browning the sesame seeds makes them incredibly nutty and fragrant, and deep with flavor.

Remove seeds from pan and add sesame oil to pan. Add the tofu and brown. I added the veggie oil because the tofu pieces were starting to burn.

Once browned, added the soy sauce, honey, and brown sugar. Add sesame seeds right before serving.

You don’t have to add the brown sugar. I did it so there would be some caramelization.

Enjoy! 🙂

And PS – I learned tonight I can use chopsticks with my left hand (I’m right-handed for writing) as well as my right hand! NEAT! Who knew!

Kristin

When Story Time and Snack Time Collide

We’ve started going to the library every Wednesday now. Bigs is on a big Berenstain Bears book kick. Smalls is on just a regular leg kick (as in, he kicks everything). And I’ve made it a priority to find some time for myself to read (even if it means I stay up later…no wonder I’m so pooped!). Bigs picks out all the new Berenstain Bears books that he’s not yet read or that we don’t own and I thumb through the shelves, looking for books I think they’d both enjoy. I can’t help it, but I am always drawn to books with some sort of food theme or food title. I can’t help it.

I’ve started making snacks that sort of match the food in the books, the best I can. It’s been an unplanned, fun, activity for both me (making them) and the boys (enjoying them). Thus begins my new series, “When Story Time and Snack Time Collide”!

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Last week, I made raisin happy face oatmeal to match the raisin happy face oatmeal Mama Bear made her cubs. Bigs went bananas. Smalls didn’t care. I had enough enthusiasm for him though, not to worry.

Today, we read The Bear Detectives and at the very end, the cubs found out that the missing pumpkin was made into a delicious pumpkin pie. Since I didn’t have enough time to just whip up a quick pumpkin pie (nor did I feel that was a healthy enough snack for them…for me? that’s a different story!), I made pumpkin muffins. I found an easy, one-bowl recipe on one of the blogs I follow. And they were healthy! The only change I made was that I replaced part of the honey with some demerara raw sugar, since I didn’t have the amount of honey it called for.

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It’s not quite nap time yet (waaaaahhh), but the boys are already looking forward to their pumpkin muffins while reading our new library books!

Here is the recipe I used:

http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2009/10/13/recipe-conection-one-bowl-pumpkin-breadmuffins/

Enjoy eating these with your own little cubs!

Blessings,

Kristin